Sources of sexual knowledge and associated outcomes in a deaf population




Barlett, Karen

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The state of sexuality education in the United States is currently the subject of much research. Presently, federal funding supports abstinence-only sexuality education, which has been strongly associated with negative sexual outcomes in diverse hearing populations. Unfortunately, only a small amount of research related to sexuality and deafness has been published, and there is an even smaller amount of research evaluating sexuality education for deaf students in the United States. What evidence does exist suggests that Deaf students receive very little formal education related to sexuality from parents and schools. In addition to inadequate instruction about topics related to sexuality, Deaf students face increased difficulties accessing accurate sexual knowledge due to lack of access to signing adults, low literacy levels, and cultural barriers.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the relationships between sources of information, access to language models, and unwanted sexual outcomes in a Deaf population. Hypothesized correlations between causal factors (type of school attended, access to a trusted adult, sources of sexual knowledge, and perceptions of knowledge received) and outcomes (Sexual Knowledge Scale, and Sexual Outcomes Measure) were analyzed using a series of t-tests to determine the unique contribution of individual variables. Additionally, a multivariate path analysis was conducted to evaluate complex relationships among the factors and outcomes.

Results indicated that the type of school setting did not impact participants’ sources of sexual information, but that students who attended residential schools were more likely to experience unwanted sexual outcomes than those who attended mainstream schools. Regardless of academic setting, access to a trusted adult during high school had a significant influence on variables associated with reduced negative outcomes. Additionally, findings indicated that regardless of participants’ actual sexual knowledge, their perception of the knowledge they received was shown to impact outcomes later in life. Implications for theory, research, practice, and training are discussed.



Psychology, Health and environmental sciences, Education, Abstinence education, Deaf education, Sexuality education